Carl Sagan and his library of randomly ordered chemicals

I was indoors escaping the heat on my visit to the beach a couple of weeks ago. Flipping through the channels, I was delighted to see Carl Sagan’s wonderful show Cosmos. I remember thoroughly enjoying this in its first run many years ago. But when I saw him talking about chemistry and the chemicals that are responsible for creating and maintaining life, I couldn’t help but find his presentation a bit odd.

The scene showed Sagan in a library, a library of chemistry, all the chemical processes neatly arranged in book after book, filling shelf after shelf, labeled and ready for his hot little fingers to peruse them. Interesting image, isn’t it? Except for one thing:

I have never ever ever seen a library pop into existence by itself and arrange itself by random chance into any resembling the order which he represented on that set.

Another interesting point: a book does not write itself; it is written by an author. And who do you suppose might be the author of those volumes in Sagan’s cosmic library of chemistry? I wonder, who, indeed.

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